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Alexander v. Pauloski

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 24, 2018

Wilton Alexander, et al., Plaintiffs,
Geraldine A Pauloski, et al., Defendants.



         Defendants Geraldine A. Pauloski and Farnsworth Realty & Management Company have filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 18.) Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims in this matter are barred because they should have been asserted as compulsory counterclaims in an earlier eviction action in state court. (Id.) The motion is fully briefed. (Docs. 21, 22.) For the reasons below, the Court denies the motion.

         I. Background

         On August 8, 2017, Plaintiffs Wilton Alexander, Juanetta Wagoner, and Ruby Wagoner filed a Complaint alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 (Count One), the Arizona Fair Housing Act, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 41-1491.19 (Count Two), breach of the implied warranty of habitability (Count Three), negligence (Count Four), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count Five). (Doc. 1.) The Complaint alleges that in 2015 Plaintiffs entered into a written lease with Defendant Farnsworth Realty & Management Company (“Farnsworth”) for property in Mesa, Arizona. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 10.) After Plaintiffs took occupancy of the property, they had issues with the stove, a leak in the bathroom that was not repaired properly, a roach infestation, and a malfunctioning dishwasher. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-21.) Plaintiffs remained in the property from November 1, 2015, until there were evicted on May 30, 2017, and vacated the property on June 5, 2017. (Id. at ¶ 23.)

         Around March 23, 2017, Farnsworth served a “10 Day Legal Notice” on Plaintiffs. (Id. at ¶ 33.) The notice stated that Farnsworth received notice that the property was in poor condition, was being maintained in an unsanitary and hazardous manner due to heavy clutter, and had a roach infestation. (Id. at ¶ 34.) On April 21, 2017, Farnsworth sent a second “10 Day Legal Notice” stating Plaintiffs had “made progress on the property, ” but that Farnsworth was still concerned about the roach infestation. (Id. at ¶ 35.) On April 27, 2017, Plaintiffs had the property treated for the roach infestation. (Id. at ¶ 37.)

         Plaintiffs allege that Ruby Wagoner is 95 years old. (Id. at ¶ 27.) They also allege that both Ruby and Juanetta Wagoner are individuals with disabilities within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3601 and Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 41-1491(5). (Id. at ¶¶ 27-31.) They allege that Plaintiff Alexander is 87 years old, has high blood pressure, has had open heart surgery, and is the caregiver for Ruby and Juanetta Wagoner. (Id. at ¶ 32.) On April 20, 2017, Monica Abrante, M.D., signed a request for reasonable accommodation for Ruby and Juanetta Wagoner. (Id. at ¶ 42.) The request explained that Plaintiffs Ruby and Juanetta Wagoner could only perform limited housekeeping due to their disabilities. (Id. at ¶ 41.) These Plaintiffs “requested exceptions for items related to health care” and “requested some patience as Plaintiffs eradicated or attempted to eradicate the roach infestation.” (Id.) On May 9, 2017, Farnsworth received the request for reasonable accommodations. (Id. at ¶ 40.)

         In the meantime, on May 1, 2017, Farnsworth sent a certified letter to Plaintiffs indicating that the lease had been terminated and that Plaintiffs must vacate the property within ten days. (Id. at ¶ 38.) Defendants terminated the lease due to the roach infestation and because living conditions related to the infestation “had not been brought into compliance.” (Id. at ¶ 39.) On May 23, 2017, Farnsworth filed an eviction action against Plaintiffs in the San Tan Justice Court (CC2017-094613EA). (Id. at ¶ 44.) At the May 30, 2017 eviction hearing, Farnsworth acknowledged receipt of the request for reasonable accommodation. (Id. at ¶ 45.) Plaintiffs urged Farnsworth to consider reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act of 1988 and the Arizona Fair Housing Act. (Id. at ¶ 50.) Farnworth refused to reconsider the request for reasonable accommodation. (Id. at ¶ 51.) On May 30, 2017, Farnsworth obtained a judgment of eviction. (Id. at ¶ 52.)

         On June 1, 2017, representatives from Farnsworth informed Plaintiffs they had thirty days to leave the property before being evicted and that Farnsworth would allow the storage of their personal property for another twenty days. (Id. at ¶ 54.) However, following the eviction, Farnsworth “forced Plaintiffs to immediately leave the residence by June 5, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. giving no reasonable accommodation to Plaintiffs despite either [their] advanced ages [or] disability status.” (Id. at ¶ 55.) Plaintiffs allege that as a result of Defendants' conduct, they “suffered actual and monetary damages, including damages for mental anguish, pain, suffering, emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, inconvenience, loss of the right to an equal opportunity to enjoy their dwelling and loss of their civil rights under the Fair Housing Act.” (Id. at ¶¶ 69, 84.)

         II. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

         “A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a claim.” Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). A court will dismiss a complaint for failing to state a claim when the face of the complaint establishes affirmative defenses. See Parungao v. Community Health Systems, Inc., 858 F.3d 452, 457 (7th Cir. 2017) (stating that dismissal is appropriate when it is clear from the face of a complaint, and matters of which the court may take judicial notice, that the plaintiff's claims are barred as a matter of law). Defendants assert that Plaintiffs' complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because it asserts claims that are barred under the doctrine of res judicata. (See Doc. 18.) Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims should have been asserted as compulsory counterclaims, under Rule 13(a) of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, in an earlier state court eviction action.[1] (Id. at 2.)

         The Court applies state law to determine whether Plaintiffs' claims are compulsory counterclaims that should have been pleaded in the earlier state court eviction action. See Pochiro v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Amer., 827 F.2d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 1987).[2] “A plaintiff's claims are barred by res judicata if they should have been pled as compulsory counterclaims in a previous action, if the previous action was adjudicated on the merits, and if the present claims concern the same parties or their privies.” Am. Bank of the North v. Sullivan, 2017 WL 3268795, at *2 (D. Ariz. Aug. 1, 2017) (citing Rousselle v. Jewett, 421 P.2d 529, 531 (Ariz. 1966), and Mirchandani v. BMO Harris Bank, N.A., 326 P.3d 335, 337 (Ariz. 2014)). The burden of proving these elements rests with the party asserting that res judicata applies to bar a claim. State Compensation Fund v. Yellow Cab Co. of Phoenix, 3 P.3d 1040, 1044 (Ariz. 1999).

         III. Analysis

         In their motion to dismiss, Defendants cite only Rule 13(a) to support their conclusory assertion that all of Plaintiffs' “claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence that was the subject matter of Defendants' eviction lawsuit filed in San Tan Justice Court in Maricopa County.” (Doc. 18 at 2-3.) Therefore, Defendants assert that Plaintiffs' claims are barred as compulsory counterclaims “that should have been brought at the earlier eviction proceedings in state court.” (Id.) Defendants' motion does not address the elements to establish that res judicata applies.

         In response, Plaintiffs argue that Rule 13(a) does not apply to forcible entry detainer (“FED”) actions.[3] (Doc. 21 at 7-9.) Plaintiffs alternatively argue that even if Rule 13(a) applied in an eviction action, their claims in Counts One and Two would not be barred by res judicata because they are not compulsory counterclaims. (Doc. 21 at 10.) In their reply, Defendants argue that Rule 13(a) applies to eviction actions and that Plaintiffs' claims are compulsory counterclaims because they arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as the eviction action and involve the same parties. (Doc. 22 at 2-4.) As discussed below, the Court concludes that, subject to exceptions that do not appear to apply to Plaintiffs' claims, Rule 13(a) does not apply in eviction actions. Therefore, Defendants have not established that Plaintiffs were required to assert these claims as ...

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